Restored tower had key role during war

For more than 40 years it has sat abandoned and unloved, a shell of the building which played a key role in military history. From inside its walls American airmen dispatched waves of bombers and their young crews on vital missions in the final months of the second world war.

For more than 40 years it has sat abandoned and unloved, a shell of the building which played a key role in military history.

From inside its walls American airmen dispatched waves of bombers and their young crews on vital missions in the final months of the second world war. But as the control tower at Rackheath crumbled, passers-by could be forgiven their ignorance of its heritage.

Yesterday, as its extensive restoration was unveiled for the first time, it stood proud once more. And while its new purpose as a plush office suite will no doubt be less fraught than its previous existence, the tower will form a flagship centrepiece signalling the area's wartime history.

Speaking after the official opening Jill Hollis-Graves, spokesman for developer Tilia, said: "It is so moving to see this redevelopment finally complete - it is a dream realised for so many people.

"Many locals don't realise the significance of the tower's role in history, and the community have told me how fascinating it has been for them to discover just what is on their doorstep. If the Americans had not been here it could have tipped the balance of the war. We have not yet found a tenant but there are various interested parties. It will certainly take a very unusual and special tenant to realise this building's potential."

The tower is virtually all that remains of the extensive USAAF second world war airbase constructed in 1942 to accommodate the 467th bomb group who, under the leadership of Col Albert Shower, played a large part in the war.

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His widow Charlotte Shower attended the opening where she was joined by the lord lieutenant of Norfolk and a selection of dignitaries from the armed forces.

The tower stands on Witchcraft Way, named to honour the renowned B-24 Liberator Witchcraft which was famed for her astounding endurance. Battered beyond belief, the Witch battled through 130 combat missions without ever failing to reach its target. Other planes were lucky to manage 30 or 40.

With many exploits in her career, including nearly biting the dust on many occasions, Witchcraft was scrapped and sold soon after returning to the US at the end of the war.

The base was disbanded in 1959 and fell into a state of disrepair. However, about 1,000 ex-personal survive to this day, mostly living in the US.

The naming of Witchcraft Way met with controversy as the decision went to appeal with the parish council after misguided oppositions - many were simply unaware of the name's significance. Another road on the estate has been named Albert Shower Road.

A letter from Marvin Davis, president of the 467th Bombardment Group Association based in Ohio, expressed his gratitude at the developer's effort.

He said: "Our two nations will always be as one, and in the days of the 1940s, without your keen desire to hold on our efforts would have never come to pass.

"It is truly a pleasure to recognise your extraordinary accomplishment in renovating the control tower. The many frustrating years have finally ended."

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